Whether it’s book club, Sunday brunch or volunteering in the parish’s soup kitchen supper program, Julie Todoro, 29, feels quite at home in Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish — largely because her involvement occurs right alongside people in her age range.
Todoro is active in the church’s young-adult ministry that has existed since at least the early 1980s, making it the most durable parish initiative of its kind in the Rochester Diocese.
"It’s nice to have that group of people who share your faith. I have work friends and people from home, but it’s nice to have church friends too," said Todoro, who is a fifth-year parishioner at Blessed Sacrament.
"It’s easy to go to Mass and go home, but to get to know the people you’re worshiping with personally as well as spiritually is really cool," added Sean Jefferson, 28. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have taken part in young-adult activities since joining Blessed Sacrament Parish two years ago.
Young-adult activities listed by Todoro and Jefferson range from spiritual, via Bible study and trips to the Abbey of the Genesee in Livingston County; to service, through volunteering with the supper program and the parish’s Next to New Sale; to social, with bowling, ice skating, brunches, picnics and pizza parties.
"Any time you’ve got food, it’s a pretty good draw," Todoro remarked.
Similar types of offerings are staged by young-adult ministries at Peace of Christ Parish, Rochester; Church of the Assumption, Fairport; St. Christopher, North Chili; and St. Paul, Webster, all of which have started up in the last couple of years.
Individual involvement in such ministries can vary widely based on the nature of young adults’ lifestyles, according to Todoro — "all the transitions going on, in between graduation from college, first job, maybe not liking your first job, relationships, marriage." She observed that even if participants "don’t necessarily do a lot of activities, it’s still a nice connection."
Jefferson noted that Blessed Sacrament welcomes people from other parishes to its young-adult events as well as non-Catholics, which he said is a great way to evangelize. Another example of the welcoming nature of young-adult ministry is Theology on Tap, a diocesan-led discussion series on subjects related to the Catholic Church that is open to young adults from all parishes.
For those who may desire a young-adult ministry at their own parish, Shannon Loughlin, diocesan director of young adult and campus ministry, offers a number of tips at www.dor.org/ec/yaandcampusministry/startingyam.htm. Whereas a parish staff person has traditionally overseen Blessed Sacrament’s young-adult ministry (Sue Howard, pastoral associate, is currently in that role), Loughlin said most staffs aren’t equipped as such and it may fall to the young adults themselves to mobilize.
Among the priorities that Loughlin suggests they weigh:
- Clearly define the audience your ministry seeks to attract. Is it for people in their 20s and 30s, college age, singles only, married people, young adults with children? For instance, Blessed Sacrament welcomes those in their 20s and 30s but does not distinguish by marital status; Jefferson said most events are enjoyed by singles and couples "in one big group."
- Define the nature of your activities. Will events be geared toward service, travel, Scripture study, supper club, a certain style of worship? Will a group meet regularly, or just get together occasionally?
- Continually welcome new members and avoid cliquishness; don’t exist solely for the sake of the current members.
- Don’t stop at connecting with other young adults, but blend into parish life as a whole. An example of this is Jefferson, who noted that he and his wife both teach religious education at Blessed Sacrament in addition to their young-adult involvement.
Loughlin added that the makeup of a young-adult ministry can come in a variety of ways, due to the definition of "young adult" as anybody from 18 to 40 years old.
"It’s a huge (age) difference," she remarked.